My final backpacking trip in Washington before I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico was one of my favorites. A nine mile trek, the Ozette Loop trail took us from Lake Ozette through a coastal forest and thickets to some of the wildest coastline in Washington. This hike had it all– sea stacks, bald eagles, whales, seals, and the only petroglyphs found on the Washington coast, the mysterious Wedding Rocks. I hiked with friends Katie and Aaron, two of my fabulous studio assistants. We were so lucky to have beautiful, clear weather; it had rained the previous three days. The popular camping sites – Cape Alava and Sand Point were crowded, but the three mile stretch of beach in between them was desolate and beautiful– my favorite areas of the wild Washington coast.
After three miles hiking to the coast, we finally see a glimpse of Ozette Island, the westernmost point of land in the lower 48 states, located just off Cape Alava, the end of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Trail. It’s part of the Ozette Reservation, and an important ceremonial site for the Makah people. It is also a National Wildlife Refuge.
At the cape, surrounded by stacks.
Above the cape, on the bluff, sits a small wooded hut, a memorial erected by the Makah to the original inhabitants of the cape, the original Osett people. The memorial is filled with bones– whale and other sea creatures– left by tribal members visiting this place. The official placard reads:
From Osett endings have become beginnings
At Osett comes new understandings
Generation to generation
Our people have shared the wealth
From the land and sea
From this site we have gained
Appreciation of the wisdom of our forefathers
From this we have gained new strength
In their honor we dedicate this memorial
This rich culture – our proud heritage
THE MAKAH INDIAN NATION
The five original villages
Osett – Dia’th – Wa’atch – Tsoo-Yess – Ba’adah
South of the Cape, we were told that last year, a whale carcass had washed up onto the beach. Sure enough, we found the giant skull of a grey whale, a few ribs and even rotting bands of skin. The skull was immense and utterly beautiful.
The skull marked the beginning of a wild swath of Washington coastline between Cape Alava and Sand Point, another popular place to camp, three miles down the beach. This area of the coast was not often travelled as the beaches were narrow and the tide could easily force hikers into the thick, trail-less coastline. However, the wedding Rocks, smack dab in between this three mile hike, was my true destination and reason for the trek.
At an otherwise nondescript rocky outcrop along the coast, there exists a mysterious anomaly in Coastal First People history: petroglyphs. Rock drawings are not a documented piece of area first people’s history or culture. The drawings most notably depict schools of fish and orca. Who made these drawings and why? Again, this is the only place these images are found on the coast. Truly beautiful.
Further down the beach, we set up camp, made an incredible dinner, had a small fire, and watched a glorious sunset.
In the morning, we had a visitor at camp.
The tide was way out, so we explored the tidal pools before packing up camp and continuing our trek. I miss these colors.
Fresh coyote tracks on the beach. We had heard their yipping the previous night.
Hiking out through the forest, I came across a little alter of leaf people. These leaves littered the trail to and from the coast. I don’t know their significance, but once you knew what to look for, they were everywhere.